Sugarland still craves a sweet deal 

Given their respective adventures with record labels and "the industry" in general, members of country-folk supergroup Sugarland have every reason to be wary of slick pie-in-the-sky events such as Atlantis. Founding members Jennifer Nettles, Kristen Hall and Kristian Bush have collectively dealt with enough smarmy contract-pushers to send most musicians to Burger King in search of career advancement. Surprisingly, the three actually welcome the chance to go corporate again.

First as a member of Soul Miner's Daughter and then as a solo act, Nettles has had a hugely successful career. She and her band made the showcase rounds, and played Atlantis several times. "We had a few nibbles because of Atlantis, some interest," she says. "But we decided to stay independent."

Not so with Sugarland, says singer/songwriter Hall. "We want to get signed and play big shows." Even though she's danced the corporate tango with international companies such as BMG and run through several publishing deals, Hall's still ready to give it another shot with Sugarland. For one thing, it's a more communal project. "When my stuff was just 'Kristen Hall,' it was all on me and that got tiresome." Secondly, happiness is now her main priority. "I'm older. I've been through that misery. Sugarland makes people happy, so let's take it as far as we can."

Bush, formerly of Billy Pilgrim, recalls that he was "ready to sign anything" when Atlantic came calling. "I know what it's like to get screwed," he says. "We all do." Still, he echoes his bandmates' giddy joy. "You know that feeling when you're 15 years old and you've just figured out the chords to a Van Halen song? and it actually kinda sounds like the record?" That, says Bush, "is how it feels to play in Sugarland."

Sugarland plays Smith's Olde Bar Thurs., July 31, at 10 p.m.


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